E6: Ryan DeLuca: Bodybuilding.com's 9 Figure Founder

2000 Percent Raise

Oct 31 2022 • 47 mins

In this episode, guest Ryan Deluca gives an inside glimpse of growing an ecommerce fitness supplement business from scratch at age 20 into a company he sold for 9 figures, 17 years later.

His story begins with him acquiring the domain name, Bodybuilding.com, for $20,000, in 1997, when the internet was just coming to life.

Host John Cerasani,  a venture capitalist, commends Ryan for acting on such a vision, bootstrapping without any other investors, to revolutionize the fitness industry online at such a young age, saying: “There are people who have the ideas, and there are people who can execute the ideas of others. But, there are very few who can execute their own ideas.”

Topics covered in this interview:

  • Three key elements of BodyBuilder.com that made it successful: content (including forums and articles designed to replace those in muscle magazines), commerce and community.
  • The truth about the old saying “It takes a decade to become an overnight success,” with Ryan sharing the many years of sleepless nights fearing he couldn’t make payroll. “I was continually paranoid, always aware that there were new competitors…in 17 years, I never felt that I could take a break.”
  • The sale of BodyBuilder.com first in part to an equity partner, where he retained 72 percent ownership, and later to Liberty Media.
  • The challenges of being retired at 35, after the sale, with Ryan feeling a loss of purpose and not wanting to model to his young children being a dad sitting around with lots of leisure time doing nothing. He called those six months, “the most depressing of his life.”  John also shares his angst that followed after he sold his insurance company, and had days of feeling like “a walking dead man.”
  • Ryan’s new business, Black Box VR which he co-founded with Preston Lewis, another fitness fanatic, who helped him grow BodyBuilding.com.
  • The new company is self-funded, but Ryan will be looking for investors as they expand into more locations. Right now, he is still sorting through the complications of a new technology where he has to create all the tools for using it well.
  • Using artificial intelligence and “magically immersive technology,” Black Box VR pairs resistance training, gaming principles and high intensity cardio, for people trying to reach their health and fitness goals. Here is one of several YouTube videos that describe these unique workouts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJk8ftK-yIE
  • In simplest terms, Ryan describes Black Box VR as “playing a really exciting video game with resistance training and cardio to get a really good workout,” which takes the boredom out of getting and staying fit.

Gyms in these areas have free tryouts of the new Black Box VR:

  • Boise, Idaho
  • San Francisco, California
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Oceanside, California

John encourages other gym owners to consider offering Black Box VR as a way to differentiate themselves. Home versions of the product are in development, but not yet available.

About Ryan Deluca:

Founder and of Bodybuilding.com, now CEO and Co-Founder at Black Box VR

Ryan DeLuca founded Bodybuilding.com in 1999 in his garage in Boise, Idaho at the age of 20. Under his leadership, the company skyrocketed to nearly $500,000,000 in annual revenue before he stepped down as CEO in 2015.

With almost zero startup capital and no outside investors, his team grew the company from nothing to become the world’s most visited fitness site and largest e-tailer of sports nutrition products. From the beginning, the company was focused on transforming the lives of its millions of customers and staying true to the core principles that they passionately believed in.

Profitable from the start, Bodybuilding.com was eventually purchased by Liberty Media. Ryan was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 2009 for the Idaho/Utah region and Inc. Magazine called him one of the “Top 5 Coolest Entrepreneurs Under 30.”

With 800 team members spread throughout six states and four countries, Ryan was proudest of the fact that Bodybuilding.com was consistently named one of the best places to work.

Ryan was temporarily retired for only six months before the startup bug bit him again. Together with his co-founder Preston Lewis, Black Box VR was born, merging their passions for technology and fitness and the way they can intersect to help people transform their lives. Black Box VR has six gym locations open where members can immerse themselves in a virtual reality game that delivers a complete strength training and cardio program. The company was named Best Startup of CES in 2019.

In his spare time, he's a private, instrument-rated pilot with over 2,700 flight hours. You can usually find him flying his Pilatus PC-12 turboprop around the western USA on the weekends for fun, charity, and business. Ryan's an avid non-fiction reader, loves health and fitness, and recently took up ballroom dancing, much to the amusement of his friends and family.

Ryan lives in Eagle, Idaho with his wife Nelya and four kids.




Follow Ryan:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryandeluca/




Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blackboxvrfitness/

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@blackboxvr

Follow John:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/johncerasani

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@johncerasani

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johncerasani

More 2000 Percent Raise Episodes and Content: https://linktr.ee/2000percentraise

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